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Walk the Moon’s latest album charts new territory

Walk the Moon | Brian ZIff

Reading between the lines of Walk the Moon’s newest groove single “One Foot” and its accompanying “Press Restart Tour,” spanning North America this month, the massively popular dance rock quartet is looking forward to writing a new chapter in 2018.

WALK THE MOON
When: 7:30 p.m. January 26
Where: Aragon, 1106 W. Lawrence
Tickets: $35
Info: ticketmaster.com

“There’s really this spark we are feeling,” says frontman Nicholas Petricca. “It’s a really exciting time to be in the band with all this new music [from new album “What If Nothing” that came out in November]. It’s the best stuff we’ve ever done and the deepest, most raw and most dynamic material I think we’ve ever written.”

Our chat is just a few weeks after the Cincinnati band’s much talked-about appearance on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” where the four brandished their trademark war paint and led a chilled crowd in New Orleans into a battle cry chorus line. The show, in its own personal way, was a fresh start for the group who had spent a good deal of 2016 and some of 2017 on an unintended break at the height of their fame when Petricca took a leave to help his father who was battling Alzheimer’s disease.

“I needed to just spend my energy and time at home for a while,” he admits, seeing the silver lining. “[The break] ended up becoming a major turning point for us as a band and for us individually as human beings.” It was the first time in five years, since the release of their major label self-titled debut in 2012, that the members of Walk the Moon (also including multi-instrumentalists) Kevin Ray, Sean Waugaman and Eli Maiman) were given a chance to breathe after touring nonstop behind monolithic singles like radio right arm “Shut Up and Dance.”

That song, says Petricca, “created what we call this great Cadillac problem” of becoming bigger than the band itself.

“’Shut Up and Dance’ got so globally big that the identity of the band got screwed up in a way. People would equate the mood and feeling of the song with the identity of the band, and there’s still way more people that know that song than know the name Walk the Moon,” he laments. “So now after pausing for a bit we have an interesting opportunity to sort of take that back or redefine for people who we are. There’s this whole other side to us that we are showing off in a big way on our new record.”

Though Walk The Moon, named in homage to The Police hit, are synonymous with a synth-heavy ‘80s-inspired throwback sound, there’s also hints of riff rock (“Headphones”) and future glam (“Surrender”) on “What If Nothing,” which came about from “saying no to nothing and saying yes to everything,” says Petricca. The new sounds were helped along by lauded producer Mike Elizondo. Walk the Moon recorded with him in the famed Death Row Records studios where Elizondo first cut his teeth working with Dr. Dre and Eminem. “We were looking for that injection of grit and punch and attitude that he’s known for,” says Petricca, “we wanted to find ways to get more nasty and rough around the edges, and I think Mike did that for us really well.”

Of course the thematic content also took a turn on “What If Nothing,” with the saccharine folly taking a backseat to pensive manifestos that were driven by Petricca’s reactions to personal and societal times of crisis. “We had a lot of good ammo for writing music,” he jokes, saying the songs are really personal and autobiographical. “With something like my dad’s illness there’s this deep well of life experience to pull from, and having my own sense of personal tragedy has allowed me to feel more deeply and relate a little more with people going through a hard time all over the world. I feel like it’s made me understand in a different way all the craziness that is happening on the planet and in our country.”

Petricca looks forward to that new shared experience on the tour, which will be complemented with an extravagant light show and futuristic style production courtesy of a collaboration with creative company FragmentNine. “We are literally taking people on a spaceship to have the feeling of being transported when everyone really needs it,” says Petricca. “Walk the Moon has always wanted to be the band that people could dance and cry to.”

Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.